How movement helps children with understanding directional concepts?


Think about directionality like a tour guide to the understanding of 3-dimensional world. In order for children to orientate themselves and understand the 3D world, they need to first understand spatial concepts on their own bodies and what is the best and most efficient way to learn our personal orientation? It is through movement of course!

Children´s understanding of orientation rapidly improves as soon as they start moving and exploring their surroundings.  When children actively and personally engage with their environment they learn how it relates to themselves and that is the first step to learn and comprehend spatial concepts. For instance, children need to know first, where is the “top”, “bottom” or “middle” of their bodies before they can understand where these spatial terms are when unrelated to their bodies, such as the “top” of the table, the “middle” of the stick or “bottom” of the tower.

Once children understand their personal orientation and how they relate to their surroundings, then they can grasp the abstract concept of how things unrelated to them relate to each other. The challenging part is that directional concepts require context to decide their immediate meaning and context comes from experience. Therefore, children need plenty of variety in experience as well as repetition.  This is the key to learning.


How can we enhance children's learning about space?

We can help children understand space by narrating the spatial terms which they experience during play.  Such as, “you are going THROUGH the tunnel, OVER the block, UNDER the table”.  If there are multiple ways to overcome the obstacle, by asking questions like “which way will you go?”  You suggest that there is more than one way and that creates a wonderful brain boost activity for problem-solving and decision making.

What is the mind-body link?

Let's look at brain development and the connection with movement in a very simple way. There are different parts and centers of the brain and each of them has different role. The early years are the most critical for brain development, experts suggest that 90% of the neural connection are in place by the age of 5 and the neural connections happen through movement and new experiences. The more children move, the more they experience and the more the brain is stimulated.

Brain Basics

The brain develops from bottom up. Starting with the brain stem (survival) continues through senses and sensory stimulation, the Cerebellum (MOVING), the Limbic system (emotions) and lastly the Cortex (THINKING).

We know that any learning at any age is based on prior knowledge- from unknown to the known. When children learn about the world surrounding them, they need to experience it with their bodies, engaging multiple senses to create new experience and understanding- moving comes before thinking.

So learning directions and spatial terms by sitting down and listening “here is top and there is under” will not be as efficient as if the learner moves through the environment themselves.  Children have to figure out which way to go, how to get through the tunnel and what it feels like to be inside the tunnel. Multiple sense stimulated at once creates a multisensory activity and it is proven that the learned information is more likely to be retained.

The beauty of our Parent and Child classes at The Little Gym is that children have the freedom to explore the multi-sensory environment at their own pace, they can satisfy their curiosity and therefore feed the brain with new experiences in the constantly changing environment. During our classes, children move and feel their bodies in all directions and on different planes of movement, subsequently, they enhance their understanding of spatial orientation and directionality.  The parent or carer coming with their child has the priceless opportunity to witness children´s growth and rapid development whilst they have fun together.

Call us on 01223 324 554  to secure your space at The Little Gym Cambridge.  Save over 10% with our Pre Christmas Offer for Parent and Child classes (10-36 months).


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